Graphic Novella • Tapestry Collage
The ORPHEUS tapestries were commissioned by the DIVA Artist in residence initiative at Electric Picnic 2017.
The project was adapted from an original series of drawings inspired by the unique pathos and abject tranquillity of a dead mouse. Soon the delicate melancholy of the mouse became the more sinister and morose charm of a rat. For me, the rat took command of any stage I gave it, but any scene or monologue I composed for him was too uncooperative, it lacked the epic, and so ORPHEUS happened.
A contemporary retelling of the classical Greek myth of Orpheus in the Underworld, the comic is a cyclical narrative that ends as it begins and repeats infinitely, just as it is constantly retold around the world in different ways on stage, through song and verse. The tragedy of Orpheus was told at the birthplace of what became modern festivals, and was given new life at Electric Picnic 2017 and 2018.
ORPHEUS alludes to several other examples of European and Irish mythology and literature, resurfacing its endless symbolism in the modern world, and its recurring insistence to repeat the mistakes of the ancients. Direct appearances of Eurydice, the three Coronis, Nerites, and Niobe, address the Feminist in a world where unforgiving gods, monsters and vermin, are little more than men. The scientific method is the pantheon of the new age, lightbringers and world builders, and as man was rodent to Olympus, so too are rats to progress.
Versions of Orpheus' fate are as grim as they are varied, and yet there is no story that tells of Orpheus's second and final voyage into Hades. Not unlike the fate of Niobe, it is sometimes regarded that his punishment was to live with his guilt and the memory of failing to save his bride, but he does not suffer for long before he too dies.
Intrigued by the circular punishments of Ixion, Sisyphus, Salmoneus, and Tantalus, I mused with the idea that Orpheus' punishment was to perpetually fail to rescue Eurydice for eternity, and suffer his loss again and again, mercilessly, like a rat in a wheel or a maze.
In collaboration with Alan Meredith (La biennale di Venezia, 2018), the installation stitched the textile collages into the backdrop of the festival and the distant throbbing lights in the dark became an extension of the work. Legible from all points around the circular sequence, the installation functioned as a working roundabout in the festival, achieving a paradox oscillating between structure and enclosure, the ephemeral and the perpetual.